Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

Author Bio ▼

Ian joined Informa (formerly UBM) in 2018 as the Editor of Safety & Health Practitioner. Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in business to business trade print media, in the automotive sector. He was Online Editor and then moved on to be the Editor of two publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.
July 30, 2020

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Grenfell Tower fire

Grenfell Tower fire: Main contractor ‘ignored’ cladding fears warning

A senior figure at the main contractor responsible for the refurbishment work at Grenfell Tower ‘ignored’ email concerns that the cladding could be combustible, the inquiry has been told.

GrenfellVIdeoClaire Williams from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) firm running the tower sent an email to Rydon’s Simon Lawrence on 12 November 2014 asking for clarity on whether the cladding selected for the refurbishment would resist fire.

The inquiry has been told that there is no evidence that anyone at Rydon acknowledged or replied to that email.

Grenfell Tower fire: Inquiry resumes with ‘limited attendance’

Phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry resumed on Monday 6 July, following the suspension of process in March, by Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Upon resumption, the inquiry bagan hearing oral evidence ‘on a limited attendance basis’, rather than options such as remote video conferencing after consultation with the key participants and witnesses. Organisers have stated that arrangements have been put in place to ensure limited attendees can use the premises ‘safely and in line with government guidance’.

“Attendance will be restricted to the members of the Panel, Counsel to the Inquiry, the witnesses, their legal representatives and any person providing immediate support, and those Inquiry staff and contractors critical to the operation of the hearings. The Inquiry has also invited a member of the Press Association to attend to enable first-hand reporting and to assist in making the process as transparent as possible.”

The Guardian reported that attendee numbers will be reviewed as the situation develops in line with the guidance, though hundreds of survivors and families of residents are likely to be prohibited from attending the hearings for the meantime.

On hearing the news, Vice-Chair of Grenfell United, Karim Mussilhy, said he was frustrated with the process, explaining that “a part of the justice process is being able to be in the room when people who are responsible for what happened to our loved ones face questions”.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearings will continue to be streamed online and remote wellbeing services are remain available.

‘No fire issues’ in 2012 Grenfell cladding plan

A fire safety expert who worked on the project to clad Grenfell Tower in 2012 has said that the plans presented no “particular issues or problems” when it came to fire safety.

Dr Clare Barker, formerly Principal Fire Engineer at consultant Exova, was being probed by Richard Millett QC, leading counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, at the resumption of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry following the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

She was asked if, at the time, she considered cladding the building would present any particular issues or problems with regard to fire safety, Dr Barker replied: “No, I didn’t.”

Dr Barker was also asked if there was a reason why she did not suggest that advice on the specific cladding system should be included in the fire safety strategy, to which she also replied: “No.”

Millett QC then asked Dr Barker if the question of the need for cavity barriers within the cladding should form part of the fire strategy discussed, to which she replied: “Not at that meeting.”

Construction Manager reports that, moving on to Exova’s fee proposal, Millett quoted to Dr Barker the scope of the consultant’s works. The proposal said: “This scope of works is based on the assumption that a detailed appraisal is not required of the structural fire protection to the loadbearing elements of structure or of the fire compartmentation within the building. However, if it should transpire during the site survey that such an appraisal is necessary, then the scope of works can be extended to cover this, subject to a separate fee agreement.”

He asked on what basis the assumption was made that an appraisal of the structural fire protection of the compartmentation was not necessary.

Dr Barker replied: “I would say it was assumed that, because the building was a concrete building, it possessed the necessary fire resistance, as well as because at the time that it was constructed it was required to be a building with two-hour fire resistance to the structural elements. As it says underneath about carrying out a site survey to do that appraisal, that wouldn’t be something that we could do.”

£1 billion Building Safety Fund launched by government

During the first budget of 2020 in March, the newly-appointed Chanceller of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that extra funds will be made available from the Government to support the removal of combustible Grenfell-style cladding on tower blocks. On June 4, the Government announced the launch of the Building Safety Fund, by opening the registration process, which closes on 31 July 2020. 

The Building Safety Fund is designed to help building owners and landlords replace unsafe non-ACM cladding on residential buildings at least 18 metres high which do not comply with building regulations. Unsafe non-ACM cladding includes certain types of other (non-Aluminium) metal composite or high pressure laminate panels, render and timber wall systems.

Experts had already commented that the original £600m would not be enough, even for those blocks with cladding that conforms to the Government’s strict rules. The Chancellor noted this in his budget speech, and has pledged an extra £1 billion in a new building safety fund.

During the announcement, The Chancellor said: “Two and a half years on, we’re still grappling with the tragic legacy of Grenfell. Expert advice is clear that new public funding must concentrate on removing unsafe materials from high rise residential buildings, so today I am creating a new building safety fund worth £1 billion.”

He followed on to say that all experts, committees (including the select committee) and the opposition agree that this is necessary. The funding will go “beyond ACM to make sure that all unsafe cladding will be removed for all social and residential buildings above 18m high”.

The Housing Secretary pledged to look to spearhead these efforts in the housing sector.

The Government also pledged increased investment to national infrastructure projects across the UK, including in 4G and broadband coverage, green transportation methods.

MPs launch inquiry into cladding remediation

In March 2020, it was announced that MPs were to launch a new inquiry to review the progress made in removing potentially dangerous cladding from high-rise and high-risk buildings. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry announced that it would also look at the adequacy of funding by the government.

Grenfell housing

The government has offered funding for the removal of aluminium composite material (ACM) ACM cladding from private sector properties but the Committee pointed out that 143 out of 175 properties with this form of cladding are yet to begin remedial work. Residents in properties with other forms of cladding face uncertainty of the timescale for removal and potential costs of tens of thousands of pounds, it added.

The inquiry will examine the scale of issues facing residents in buildings due to combustible cladding. It will also look at the quality and effectiveness of government support for the removal of all form of dangerous cladding from existing buildings, in particular the pace of remediation.

The Committee’s chair, Labour MP Clive Betts, said: “There are still hundreds of buildings encased in combustible cladding and thousands of residents facing serious financial strain as a result. The knock-on effect of dangerous cladding on buildings has been significant, with homeowners facing increased insurance or mortgage premiums, and even having to fund round-the-clock fire patrols simply to stay in their own homes.

“The government is providing financial support to enable the removal of ACM cladding from privately owned buildings, but this appears to be far short of what is necessary to address the real scale of the issue.

“We have launched this inquiry to understand the impact that the government’s response has had in providing support and driving forward remediation work. We also want to better understand the scale of the problems facing residents and look at what more will need to be done to ensure that buildings are made safe, and the financial impact on residents addressed.

“This Committee has already called on the government to fund the removal of all forms of combustible cladding and criticised the pace of change. Nearly 1,000 days since the fire at Grenfell Tower, these issues must now be addressed.”

Fire Safety Bill introduced by the Home Office

The Home Office has introduced a new Fire Safety Bill, in an effort to improve fire safety in buildings in England and Wales.

Set to amend the Fire Safety Order 2005, the bill has been designed to “ensure that people feel safe in their homes, and a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire never happens again”.

The Home Office has set out clarification to who is accountable for reducing the risk of fires – the duty-holder/building owner for multi-occupied, residential buildings. They must manage the risk of fire for:

  • The structure and external walls of the building (e.g. cladding, balconies and windows);
  • Entrance doors to individual flats that open into communal areas.

Click here for further information on the new Fire Safety Bill.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 2

Cladding firm suggested use of cheaper panels

On 11 March 2020, the second phase of the Grenfell Tower inquiry were presented with an email, sent in 2013 from Mark Harris, of Harley Facades, advising architects that, “from a selfish point of view”, his firm’s preference was to use aluminium composite material (ACM).

ACM was “tried and tested” and the firm had used it many times before, he said.

The second phase of the inquiry is looking into how the building came to be covered in such cladding.

It is the first time that the inquiry has listened to suggestions as to why the material used to clad the building was changed during the refurbishment programme, between 2012 and 2016.

Fire safety guidance for tall buildings were not checked by architect

A week previously, Studio E’s Bruce Sounes, told the inquiry that he wasn’t aware of concerns over the safety of combustible panels often being used on housing blocks.

He said fire safety details were for specialist consultants and added that he had not designed the cladding used.

Firms involved in Grenfell refurbishment ‘deny responsibility’

In January 2020, The Grenfell Tower fire inquiry has heard that none of the firms involved in the 2016 refurbishment of the building have accepted any responsibility for the fire which killed 72 people in June 2017.

The inquiry’s Chief Lawyer, Richard Millett QC, said each claimed what happened was “someone else’s fault”.

This is despite widespread expert opinion that the work failed to meet building regulations.

The news comes at the start of the second phase of the inquiry, which started in January 2020. This part of the investigation will look into how the building was allowed to be covered in flammable cladding.

The tower, built in 1974, was extensively refurbished between 2012 and 2016.

Each of the firms involved in the inquiry has previously asked for a guarantee from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox that they will be protected when they give evidence and that anything they say in the hearings will not be used for any prosecution.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report

London Fire Brigade was described as ‘slow’ and ‘wasteful’ in the report, by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS). It went on to say that London Fire Brigade (LFB) ‘needs to make improvements’.

It found that LFB:

  • ‘Requires improvement’ at effectively keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks;
  • ’Requires improvement’ at how efficiently it manages its resources; and
  • ’Requires improvement’ at looking after its people.

The report said that firefighters regularly missed training and attended too many false alarms.

HM Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Matt Parr called the findings ‘disappointing’ and said there are ‘too many’ areas where LFB needs to improve: “Criticism should be balanced, however, by the things the Brigade does well: it is good at understanding the risk of fire and other emergencies and preventing fires and other risks. It also responds well with other emergency services to national risks. But it should improve the way it protects the public both through fire regulation, and how it responds to fires and other emergencies.

“It is well-resourced and exceeds its own standards on response times. But its operational policies don’t reflect national operational guidance, even for risk-critical areas such as incident command. And its incident commanders and emergency drivers are not as well trained by the Brigade as they should be. This is something that needs to be urgently addressed.

“We have concluded there is a long way to go before London Fire Brigade is as efficient as it could be.”

Read the full HMICFRS report here.

Government response to Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s Phase 1 report

In January 2020, the Government published a document in response the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s Phase 1 report, which was published on 30 October 2019.

The response sets out the actions taken by the Government, in addressing the recommendations made to it and to the Emergency Services, including the London Fire Brigade. In 2019, The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report, heavily criticised the response of The London Fire Brigade (LFB) citing ‘serious shortcomings’ and ‘systemic failures’.

The response sets out the actions taken by the Government, in addressing the recommendations made to it and to the Emergency Services, including the London Fire Brigade. The 12-page document, ‘Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report: government response’, covers the following points:

  • Use of combustible materials;
  • Recommendations where changes are required by law;
  • ‘Stay put’ and evacuation;
  • Fire doors;
  • Testing and certification;
  • Building regulations;
  • Evacuation alert systems and internal signage;
  • Building Safety Regulator.

The introduction to the paper confirms that the Government will ‘continue to ensure that we actively engage with those who have been personally affected by the tragedy and listen to their views on the changes made to building regulations and fire safety.’

It goes on to acknowledge noted that LFB has accepted in full the recommendations directed to it, as well as those for the Fire and Rescue Services more broadly. ‘The Home Office welcomes the steps LFB inform us they have already taken to address the Inquiry’s recommendations. These include revisions to policy guidance and advice to ensure personnel are better informed of the risks of fire taking hold in external walls, and the roll out of Fire Survival Guidance refresher training. The Home Office also supports LFB making smoke hoods available as part of breathing apparatus sets on all their fire appliances,’ it says.

Phase 2 of the Inquiry will investigate the wider context – including the nature and application of building regulations, the way in which local and central government responded to the fire, and the handling of concerns raised by tenants over many years.

Read the full Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report: government response, here.

On 20 January 2020, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, said that the government would begin naming the owners of high-rise buildings who’ve been slow to remove dangerous cladding. Figures show that work has yet to start on 157 residential buildings with the same type of cladding identified as a factor in the Grenfell Tower fire. Mr Jenrick told MPs: “Unless swift progress is seen in the coming weeks, I will publicly name building owners where action to remediate unsafe ACM cladding has not started. There can be no more excuses for delay, I’m demanding immediate action.”

Grenfell Tower fire

72 people were killed by the fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington, West London on Wednesday, 14 June 2017.

The 24-storey tower block burned throughout the day, taking firefighters over 24 hours to get it under control, leading to confusion and uncertainty that lasted for days.

In the 1,000-page document, which will be officially published today, enquiry Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick states that fewer people would have died, if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the report “gives the victims the truth,” and that the world “is finally hearing the truth about what happened.”

Issues highlighted in the report include:

  • A lack of training in how to ‘recognise the need for an evacuation or how to organise one’;
  • Incident commanders ‘of relatively junior rank” being unable to change strategy;
  • Control room officers lacking training on when to advise callers to evacuate;
  • An assumption that crews would reach callers, resulting in ‘assurances which were not well founded’;
  • Communication between the control room and those on the ground being ‘improvised, uncertain and prone to error’;
  • A lack of an organised way to share information within the control room, meaning officers had ‘no overall picture of the speed or pattern of fire spread’;

Click here to read the The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report in full.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick issued the following statement, on publishing the report.

In response, the LFB said it would “carefully and fully consider all of Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 report and take every action we can to improve public safety,” but that it was “disappointed” by some of the criticism of individuals. It also added disappointment that “measures we have been calling for are not in the recommendations, including the wider use of sprinklers in both new and existing buildings”.

 

On the night of the fire, the London Fire Brigade received an unprecedented number of 999 calls, but the report calls their operation beset by “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”. It said that call handlers were not always obtaining necessary information from the calls to ascertain where in the building the call originated from. It also says that some handlers were not made aware of what to tell residents in terms of when to evacuate.

Sir Martin says that operators were “not aware of the danger of assuming that crews would always reach callers”, stating a lack of lessons learnt from the 2009 fire at Lakanal House.

On 16 September 2019, it was revealed that, as part of the investigation into the fire, The LFB had been interviewed under caution by police. The interviews were conducted voluntarily, “as a body, rather than an individual” in relation to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the fire service said.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said that the fire service recognised the need for answers by survivors and the bereaved. She said that hundreds of LFB staff and volunteers had already provided interview voluntarily and that they would continue to assist the investigation.

“We must all understand what happened and why to prevent communities and emergency services from ever being placed in such impossible conditions ever again,” she added.

Ms Cotton herself was not exempt from criticism, regarding her evidence to the public inquiry in September 2018. She told the hearing that she wouldn’t change a thing about the LFB’s response to the fire. The report said she showed “remarkable insensitivity” and a lack of willing to learn lessons from Grenfell.

With news that hundreds of buildings still have ‘unsafe’ cladding, a number of fire safety experts were asked, ‘Grenfell Tower: Have lessons been learned two years on?‘ They discussed whether, two years on from the worst residential fire in living memory, there has been an adequate cultural shift – in government, the construction industry and among responsible persons – and whether this will persist.

Andy Roe to replace Dany Cotton as head of London Fire Brigade

Andy Roe London Fire BrigadeIn December 2019 Ms Cotton stepped down from the role, four months ahead of her planned retirement date. Following the public inquiry into Grenfell, she faced several calls to resign, with Grenfell United saying that a change at the top would ‘keep Londoners safe’.

Ms Cotton, who said said Grenfell Tower was “without doubt the worst fire” the London Fire Brigade has ever faced, has worked on “some of the most painful incidents to have occurred in LFB’s history” during her 32 years with the service, including the Clapham Junction rail crash in 1988 and the fire which gutted the iconic Cutty Sark in 2007.

On 12 December 2019, The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, appointed Andy Roe as London’s new Fire Commissioner. The appointment follows ‘a comprehensive international recruitment process’, according to a statement from the Mayor’s office. Mr Khan praised Ms Cotton’s career, but said her decision to leave was ‘the right one’.

A Former British Army officer, Andy brings a wealth of experience dealing with major incidents and having operational command from his time the army, as well as during his career with the LFB, where he has worked since 2002, progressing through the ranks as a firefighter – initially at Clerkenwell and West Hampstead.

Sadiq Khan, said: “Keeping Londoners safe is my number-one priority and I’m determined to do everything I can to ensure we have a fire and rescue service that is the best in the world. Andy Roe is a hugely experienced firefighter and I’m really pleased to have appointed him as London’s Fire Commissioner.”

Andy Roe, said: “It is an enormous privilege to be offered this opportunity to lead London Fire Brigade into a new decade.

“We have some real challenges ahead, but I’ll be working tirelessly with the Brigade, the Mayor and London’s communities to ensure we deliver on the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry report. I’m looking forward to leading the Brigade through a period of transformation and delivering a workforce that truly reflects the diverse city we serve.”

British Safety Council response to the fire

Commenting on the findings of Phase 1 of the inquiry, Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, said: “This is a lengthy and detailed report and the industry will rightly take time to digest its details. However, it is clear there were serious shortcomings in the procedures for evacuating Grenfell Tower and in the readiness of the fire brigade, notwithstanding the individual heroism of the firefighters on the night.”

He went on to say: “As we look ahead to Phase 2 of the inquiry, lessons must be learnt about the choice of materials used to clad Grenfell Tower and the regulatory regime for high-rise buildings. As we said at the time of the fire, we urge all politicians to re-emphasise the need for effective health and safety regulation and competent fire risk management. These are fundamental to saving lives and sustaining our communities.

“Our thoughts must be with the families of the victims and the survivors of that tragedy. This detailed and important inquiry could not have taken place without their willingness to relive the horror of 14 June 2017. We can honour the victims’ memory by making sure that this tragedy can never happen again.”

The British Safety Council welcomes recommendations of the report relating to proactive fire door inspections, enhanced firefighting lift inspections and a significant increase in the provision of information to the fire enforcing authority.

James Lewis, Head of Audit and Consultancy at the British Safety Council, said: “In course of our extensive work with owners and managers of property, we have seen countless examples of failure to maintain fire safety standards at the required levels. All too often, we see fire doors left un-managed and damaged, a resistance from building owners and operators to communicate and cooperate with the fire enforcing authority, as well as failures to provide suitable and sufficient information to buildings’ occupiers.”

The British Safety Council welcomes the following recommendations from the executive summary of the report and calls for the government to consider their implementation:

  1. Section 6, A and B – Legal requirement for the provision of up-to-date plans to the local fire and rescue service and provision of premises information boxes,
  1. Section 7, A and B – Legal requirement for enhanced checks of firefighting lifts and provision of information to the local fire and rescue service,
  1. Section 12, D – Provision (for all existing and future buildings) for the local fire and rescue service to send an evacuation signal to all residents of high-rise buildings,
  1. Section 15, 33:28 – Legal requirement for owners and operators of every residential building to provide information and instruction to residents in a format that can be reasonably understood by all,
  1. Section 16, A and B – Urgent inspection of all fire doors of every residential building which contains separate dwellings, as well as a legal requirement to inspect fire doors on a quarterly basis.

Click here for a detailed Grenfell Tower fire timeline.

Grenfell Tower inquiry

Grenfell response fire safetyIn the days that followed the tragedy, Prime Minister at time, Theresa May ordered a public inquiry into the devastating blaze. “Right now, people want answers. That’s why I am today ordering a full public inquiry into this disaster,” said the PM whilst visiting the scene. “We need to know what happened, we need to have an explanation of this. People deserve answers; the inquiry will give them.”

A criminal investigation was also opened to examine whether building regulations had been breached when the block was refurbished, while then-Communities Secretary Sajid Javid set up an Independent Expert Advisory Panel (IEAP) to report on what measures could be implemented to make buildings safer.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan commented shortly after that the fire was a “preventable accident” caused by “years of neglect” by the local council and successive governments and demanded a “national response” to the tragedy.

In the phase one inquiry report, it said that the external walls of the tower failed to comply with building regulations. This area of the tower was the focal point of the refurbishment work in 2016.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick said that there was ‘compelling evidence’ that the walls did not “adequately resist the spread of fire”.

“On the contrary,” he added, “they actively promoted it.”

Download: A technical guide to sprinkler systems

Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and consisted of 120 flats and also included communal facilities. An £8.6-million refurbishment of the block took place in 2015/16 and the bottom four floors were extensively remodelled, adding nine additional homes.

Reports at the time suggested that residents of Grenfell had raised concerns about fire safety in the flats going back many years but they were ‘disregarded’. Rydon Construction, which carried out the refurbishment work, is reported to have said that it “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”

Following refurbishment work, completed in 2016, London Fire Brigade gave the tower block a ‘medium’ fire risk rating but the resident’s group continued to make claims about fire safety worries.

In February 20818, Campaign group Justice 4 Grenfell created three billboards which were placed on the back of trucks and paraded around London to illustrate the lack of progress since the tragedy.

Grenfell Tower fire cause

Since the tragedy, investigations into the cause and response to the fire have been ongoing.

The ongoing public inquiry, launched by its Chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick in August 2017, received hundreds of thousands of documents and hundreds of applications to be core participants. Oral evidence and findings from expert reports began to be heard in June 2018.

In May 2018, Dame Judith Hackitt, a former Chair of the HSE, delivered her final recommendations following her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Hackitt concluded that indifference and ignorance had led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices and expressed the need for a “radical rethink of the whole system and how it works”. This included recommendations for recommends a “very clear model of risk ownership” and an “outcomes-based” regulatory framework, but did not recommend an explicit ban on combustible cladding.

Following the report’s publication, the government said it would consult on banning combustible cladding. Housing Secretary James Brokenshire added that ministers will also look to ban the use of desktop studies to assess the performance of external cladding systems based on the BS 8414 test.

The cladding used on housing is one of the primary focuses of scrutiny following the Grenfell fire. An estimated 800 high rise buildings across the country use similar cladding to that found in Grenfell Tower. A number of tests into cladding have resulted worrying results: Javid said in September that of 173 high-rise social housing blocks fitted with aluminium cladding, only 8 passed fire safety building regulations.

It was revealed in March that only seven of the 158 social housing blocks in England with dangerous cladding have had the material completely removed. The government announced in May that it will fund a £400-million operation to remove dangerous cladding from tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations.

Also under scrutiny was the standard advice to tenants of blocks of flats that they are safer if they stay in their accommodation than to leave, unless it is their flat which is on fire.

Latest articles:

UK Government continues to review fire safety as it opens consultation into Regulatory Reform Order

In partnership with the Draft Building Safety Bill that was published earlier this week, the UK Government is doubling its efforts to review fire safety by launching an open consultation into the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Draft Building Safety Bill announced by UK government

Alongside the Fire Safety Bill and fire safety consultation, the Building Safety Bill is said to be bringing the “biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years”. The Draft Bill was announced on 20 July by Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Construction professionals call for wider combustibles ban

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) is recommending government extends the ban on the use of combustible materials to a wider range of buildings than is currently proposed.

Post-Grenfell regulation aims to transform fire safety in buildings

Nearly three years after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, the Government has published its proposals for what it calls “the biggest change in building safety for a generation”. IFSEC Global reporter, Ron Alalouff, highlights the main features of the wide-ranging provisions.

High-risk buildings: Calls for new safety standards to be incrementally extended

The Government’s plans, confirmed earlier this month by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, include compulsory installation of sprinkler systems and clearer emergency signing for residential buildings above 11 metres.

Fire Safety Bill introduced by the Home Office

The Home Office has introduced a new Fire Safety Bill, in an effort to improve fire safety in buildings in England and Wales

Budget 2020: Statutory sick pay will be paid to all those who choose to self-isolate

In the first budget of 2020, the newly-appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has pledged the NHS will get ‘whatever resources it needs’ during the coronavirus crisis, while he has also unveiled measures to boost the self-employed and small businesses who are left out of pocket.

Government proposes fire door checks every quarter

The upcoming fire safety bill is set to stipulate that fire doors in all blocks of flats will need to be checked every three months.

Cladding manufacturer holds fire tests to prove panel safety

A cladding manufacturer has undertaken a series of ‘real life’ tests to prove that it’s cladding products do not burn.

British Safety Council respond to Queen’s Speech

The British Safety Council and other bodies have pledged to work with the government to protect and enhance workers’ rights, reform the regulatory regime for building safety and improve air quality.

Fines for fire safety breaches have soared since Grenfell

The average fine handed down for breaches of the Fire Safety Order has risen sharply since the fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

Fire Sector Summit 2019 to focus on cladding, toxicity and timber frame buildings

The Fire Protection Association’s annual Fire Sector Summit aims to provide the very latest sector thinking and developments to protect people and buildings.

A growing number of risk assessors could be prosecuted for breaches in fire safety in a post-Grenfell world, a leading lawyer warns

Speaking at FIREX International, Kizzy Augustin, a partner at Russell Cooke LLP said she believes more individuals will be held accountable for the assessment and management of fire safety.

Grenfell anniversary: Have lessons been learned two years on?

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 72 lives and exposed shameful complacency and shortcomings in UK fire safety.

Government backs down on refusal to foot £200m cladding bill

The government has pledged to pay the £200m bill for replacing aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on about 150 private high-rise blocks across England.

Sprinklers in schools: Government accused of a ‘callous disregard’ for pupil safety

School Minister, Nick Gibb, says that only 105 out of 673 new schools that were opened by February have been built with sprinklers installed.

Councils call for tougher fire safety rules

The LGA has called for called for sprinkler systems to be installed in all new care homes and residential schools.

Building safety regulations: CIH urges builders to start preparing for post-Hackitt regulations

The Chartered Institute of Housing has urged buildings to start preparing now for tougher post-Hackitt regulations, which it believes will become law by 2022.

‘It appears that innovation has missed this sector for decades’: In conversation with Firexo Chief Executive, Dave Breith

The company has produced a new fire extinguishing liquid, Firexo, which is able to quickly extinguish all classes of fire, is environmentally friendly and requires small volumes to put out a fire.

Grenfell cladding 55 times more flammable than other materials

Academics at the University of Central Lancashire have published a new report in the Journal for Hazardous Materials

Minister admits dangerous cladding remains on council tower blocks

Dangerous cladding remains on 44 council or housing association tower blocks, according to the latest government figures.

Timetable for Grenfell Inquiry phase two is “unacceptable”: Jonathan O’Neill OBE

The timetable of the Grenfell Tower inquiry hearings has been labelled “wholly unacceptable” after it emerged that phase two is unlikely to

Toxic gases emitted by burning external cladding pose serious health risk, study shows

Building regulations overlook the health hazards posed by toxic gases emitted by burning external cladding, smoke toxicity tests have suggested.

Government bans combustible cladding

Combustible materials will not be allowed on the external walls of new buildings over 18-metres containing flats, hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation.

The heat is on – looking back at Fire Summit 2018

One of the most important sessions on the day examined the Grenfell Tower tragedy and its implications for the fire protection sector.

Fire safety in construction a bigger priority post-Grenfell, but construction sector frustrated by government response

The construction industry has seen myriad improvements to fire safety since the Grenfell Tower fire, but there is frustration that the government has responded too slowly, a new study reveals.

Three quarters of tenants would not follow stay put advice during a fire

The research also found that 39% of tenants lacked confidence in their building’s ability to stop the spread of smoke and fire.

Social housing safety: Regulator issues warning

The Government’s Regulator of Social Housing highlighted health and safety as one of the key issues facing the sector.

£50m health package to help Grenfell survivors announced

The Chief Executive of NHS England said the programme would provide support for people with physical and mental health issues following last year’s tragedy.

IOSH calls for cladding ban to be widened

Safety experts have warned that a new government ban on combustible cladding on new tower blocks does not go far enough.

Barbour Download: A Technical Guide to Sprinkler Systems

There is no general legal requirement for sprinkler systems to be installed in a place of work but there may be circumstances where sprinklers are required.

This guide provides an overview of the need-to-know information for sprinklers and covers:

  • The legal requirements
  • More information about sprinkler systems
  • Key actions
  • Key terms
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Andrew Tootell
Andrew Tootell
3 years ago

First of all, my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and those who have loved ones missing. The main purpose of the fire risk assessment is prevention of the fire starting in the first place, this is very difficult in the housing sector as occupants will carry out daily activities that could result in fire such as cooking/smoking etc. In addition to this, there are fire risks associated with electrical items and most recently the fire risk associated to tumble dryers; it is this area that is weak in the fire risk assessment as landlords… Read more »

Celine Garcia
Celine Garcia
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Tootell

My sincere sympathy to all the families who lost loved ones in this fire. What a tragedy. It never should have happened Never…. Interesting to see what caused the fire as it raged as an inferno. Perhaps its time for all large buildings to have a safety officer particularly with the amount of people in a building such as this, I mean a 24/7 safety officer. Its too early to say what cause the fire so we wait to hear the investigations. We need to take steps that this never happens again. I pray for the victims and their families.… Read more »

Gliceria R. Derrota
Gliceria R. Derrota
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Tootell

An establishment of more than 40 years is high risk of fire. I believed that Grenfell Tower residents have been doing fire drill, However, I also want to understand that when stock in the middle of this type of disaster some people will not remember what they have learned. Maybe the following could help; * A thorough training for fire high risk places should be done often as they could. * Fire safety training/awareness should be very specific and should at least consider designations of who will run towards the alarm, which will run towards the fire hydrant/fire extinguisher etc.… Read more »

Safetylady
Safetylady
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Tootell

Sorry – this is just not a viable suggestion or solution..
We have to accept that fires do happen – obviously prevention is the first step, but the containment and limitation of a fire is critical for ‘defence in depth’.
Putting fridges, and everything else electrical, onto a database (only Housing Associations?) would make no contribution to reducing risk, even if it was remotely feasible.
Build safe and sound premises with effective and functioning protective measures – as was the original building. Then keep them like that.

Heather Foster
Heather Foster
3 years ago

Lots of questions, apart from the cladding – was the compartmentalisation compromised during the refurbishment? I understand that the heating and hot water system was changed to be a communal one, that may mean drilling holes through walls and were they properly sealed with correct intumescing sealant – was ducting properly sealed. What was the fire alarm system, was there one, can we see the Fire Risk Assessment for the building? Really only one way in and out of the building? I feel for the residents, their families and friends, this will be with them forever, horrific. I hope we… Read more »

Wesley
Wesley
3 years ago

Rydon Construction, who carried out the work, are reported to have said that it “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”- HOW CAN THIS BE TRUE?

David Buchanan
David Buchanan
3 years ago

It’s all guesswork and speculation at the moment and we have to rely on the relevant authorities to find the truth.
If however, as was reported, the contractor believes it used approved materials and it turns out that the cheaper non fire retardant material was in fact used used this will narrow things down a bit. It could lead to an individual employee or an unscrupulous supplier, or a combination of the two colluding to make a few grand on the side. Let’s hope it was nothing so reckless.

Jack Lee CMIOSH , BA (Hons)
Jack Lee CMIOSH , BA (Hons)
3 years ago

The silence from the Health & Safety Executive is deafening . Grenfell Tower must have been a CDM nominated project . There must have been notification to the HSE on Form 10 .The will be a pre-tender HSE Plan and of course the chain of responsibility CDM requires . Could it be that if this cladding does appear to be a root cause of the fire escalation , who approved it? The advice to stay in the flat would have been good advice if the design of the original building had not been changed by the addition of the cladding… Read more »

paul obrien
paul obrien
3 years ago

I agree jack and am somewhat shocked that the hse are so quiet on such a tragedy, It was a notifiable project construction work, so who were the principal designers, who was the cdm co ordinator , This horrific event that killed so many people was preventable if the cdm regulations were applied and followed, The information, guidance and tools were there to design out any risks at the design stages of the project, Really this is a scandal arrests should already have been made

Lyndsey Wicks
Lyndsey Wicks
3 years ago

Firstly – My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families affected by this horrific disaster. Absolutely heartbreaking this fire should never have happened and could have been preventable – lessons need to be learnt so that this horrific disaster never happens again. All people involved in the decision making of the recent refurbishment need to be brought to task and made accountable for their actions and the decisions they made. The investigation needs to look at the decision makers throughout the whole process right from the top down through management/councils/Building Inspectors/Planning Officers and down the chain to the… Read more »

peter Tanczos
peter Tanczos
3 years ago

I suspect most of those with duties incumbent under CDM2015 are very worried this morning. We might not ever get to the bottom of it, such as which “designer” or “person acting as as a designer” specified the non fire resistant cladding? I always recommend using “critical decisions register” when you don’t have clear lines of respnsibility or your Client buys a guard dog but insists on barking themselves.

Simon Wiltshire
Simon Wiltshire
3 years ago

It is my understanding that there were approximately 500 people living in the building. The number of people missing and/or presumed dead has been grossly understated. Using good transparency, quality and safety management I look forward to the outcome of the upcoming investigation and the legal proceedings that will undoubtably occur. May there never again be such a horrific and needless tragedy.

Barry
Barry
3 years ago

Unfortunately I cannot agree with many of the comments below because it is too early at this stage to make these judgements.

What evidence is there of ‘corporate manslaughter’?

Training isn’t going to help if you are fast asleep and don’t hear the alarm.

The speed the fire spread was one of the major factors from what I have seen, and the lack of containment.

Until the findings have been made and the risk assessment compared to those findings and recommendations to see exactly what happened we can only assume, and you know what that means.

Efim Rabinovitch
Efim Rabinovitch
3 years ago

Like everyone else I am totally devastated by the inferno at Grenfell Tower and my thoughts are with those who have been affected.

I am also shocked to hear from the former Chief Fire Officer that “politicians stonewalled action to tighten building regulations”, adding: “They always seem to need a significant loss of life before things are changed.”

Stephen Worrell
Stephen Worrell
3 years ago

One cannot fail to be moved by the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, the faces of families at burning windows begging for their lives and the lifelong scars that the tragedy will leave with survivors and their families. Let us also not forget, the fire fighters and emergency crews who once again have been called upon to perform the impossible, a task they carry out with such selfless bravery repeatedly entering the hell of a major fire in a desperate attempt to save lives. These heroes too will be haunted by thoughts of those they could not save. These blocks… Read more »

NIGEL Ellerton
NIGEL Ellerton
3 years ago

Why are high rise flats not fitted with compulsory sprinkler systems. It was obvious despite the heroic effortsof the fire service that fire equipment couldnt reach the upper floors.